Written May 22, 2021
A Unicorn Day In My Unicorn Space
Unicorn Space is time and space to reclaim, or discover and nurture, the natural gifts and interests that make you uniquely you, driving you to be the fullest expression of yourself and make life worth living.
~As described in Eve Rodsky’s book Fair Play.
Not only did I deliberately create Unicorn Space for myself Thursday, it was also a unicorn day. Here is how that unfolded for me.
The Mount Whitney hike is 22 miles round trip and about 6,700 feet of elevation gain to the summit at 14,505 ft above sea level. Though a beautiful blue sky day, ice patches covering the trail, snow crossings with exposure, relentless 30-40 mph winds, single digit windchill factor temps, and altitude all added “sporty” to the experience. Something I tend to welcome to find a topping of adventure to the adventure!
Here are a few easy wins to share:
My desire to reach the summit was fulfilled.
My apparel, footwear, gear, poles and pack all operated optimally.
My energy felt limitless (until about 13,000 ft).
My desire to spend time with badass women in an adventurous space was fulfilled.
My glucose variability was minimal and I ended the day with the exact glucose level at the start.
My decisions around what to pack, how to fuel, how to manage the Bermuda Triangle of insulin depletion/replenishment-glucose impact-movement impact, how to hydrate, how to navigate changing weather environments - well all these decisions were second nature, such familiar conditions for me, staying on course felt effortless.
My wins had little to do with Thursday and almost entirely to do with all my adventures and what I learned leading up to that day. To me, Thursday was evidence I had accumulated adequate information from those previous experiences, always evolving a trust in my ability to maneuver what presented.
In my decade before childrearing, I spent time in the mountains climbing, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, skiing, and ice climbing.
Those adventures were typically held with a male companion or within a team of experienced athletes. The more time consuming and riskier activities dropped in priority once the Littles came on the scene. Then adventuring with them in tow became the norm. What came to the surface for me Thursday was how much adventuring with my Littles in the less risky endeavors, in addition to all the adventuring years pre-kid, in addition to living with diabetes, each contribute equally to the evolution of my tenacity, my ability to get out of my head, my ability to be clear about what I am optimizing toward and my ability to hold close my reasons for participating. Those are such defining gifts of anyone’s adventure.
Getting gear organized again and again for multiple days in the backcountry with my two young kids, plus their snacks, apparel, entertainment pre/post trip - it’s a lot and if my “why” wasn’t clear I wouldn’t have kept this up like I still do - it’s a deeply held value
diabetes chaos so many times counting became pointless - failed medical devices, high glucose and low glucose events, (lovely was the 10 day kayak trip on the Sea of Cortez to realize Fresca isn’t sugar-free in Mexico. The additional cognitive load and decisions around d-gear and CYAing... if I allowed myself to see diabetes and all the “extra” needed as an obstacle it would have stopped me a LONG time ago.
the decade prior to kids I was adventuring in Colorado and all states to the west including Alaska, as well as in Europe, Central America, South America, Canada and then living abroad in France spending as much time outdoors as possible in each place I traveled to, always determined. These locations kept elements of unfamiliar in activities that had grown to be familiar. Always keeping it really real for me.
Most importantly I developed skills to let shit go. I continued to evolve a trust in myself with each experience obtained.
On Thursday there came a point around 13,000 ft my energy dropped and my pace quickly lessened as a result. Glucose levels were stable, holding remarkably steady. The shift was from the impact of altitude. The self talk tracks no longer existed trying to tell me to change my goal, this shift in energy didn’t arise as an obstacle. I showed up for myself with the same enthusiasm I had on the 8 miles previous where my energy was high - as information for me to navigate among. I’ll repeat that, my drop in energy at 13,000 ft gave me information, I didn’t judge it or create extra energy around it, I adapted. I quickly let my girlfriend know the moment I felt the shift. Our pace had been rather swift up to that point and it was obvious to me I wasn’t going to be able to sustain that pace. The safest thing for both of us in that moment was to operate where we were individually. It was a good moment in my day and probably the most Unicorn-defining moment. This girlfriend and I aligned clearly - we had communicated early about our desires and the moment I let her know I needed to slow and she should keep on, she said “Ok”. No questioning, no details necessary, no drama, no mothering, just “Ok”. She trusted in my trust, it was pretty cool. She continued on, at our previous pace. For me, the impacts of altitude presented clearly and abruptly, pausing occurred with regularity. Awareness around glucose levels, fuel timing, body warmth, foot placement and hydration were rotated continuously and with a heightened sensitivity. Believe me, those last 2 miles felt longer than the first 9.
About a mile from the summit another girlfriend in our group caught up with me. She is an incredible ultra runner but had concern around her breathing and cold body temps. I assured her our individual determination was
sufficient to arrive at the summit that laid 1 mile ahead of us. We continued for about half a mile before her pace surpassed mine.
I reached the summit about 10 minutes behind her and 20 minutes behind the other. Those were two smiling, albeit cold, faces I was very excited to see. The incredible ultra runner friend began her running descent just as I arrived at the summit. She quickly expressed she wanted to get back to oxygen-rich air ASAP. Impressive that one!
After fuel was consumed tucked behind rocks to minimize wind, a photo with the sign and a summit book signing with my “Ok” girlfriend, we began our descent. It was lovely seeing the rest of our girlfriends on the way down, 2 not that far from the summit. On a warmer day there perhaps would have been conversation about climbing back up to the top for the photo op with all 4 of us. It was way too cold and windy to even consider.
As we passed people still hiking up toward the summit there came a time we refrained from saying “You’re almost there”. It just becomes clear it’s no longer helpful as they still had a ways to climb.
The descent allowed a different perspective on the beauty of the mountains. The oxygen-rich air was quite nice. Arriving back at the trailhead is always bittersweet but my tired body enjoyed trading out the trail shoes for some flips. Later that evening once all girlfriends returned safely we went to dinner. Most of us choose burgers to refuel our bodies but sharing stories of the day brought much connection and laughter in our experience of shared vulnerability.
It was such a unicorn day in my Unicorn Space.
A bit about the diabetes side of my day. Here is my glucose variability by the hour during my climb and descent to and from the summit:
6 mg/ dL
11 mg/dL SUMMIT
25 mg/dL FINISH
In the world of glucose management finishing a 12 hour physical adventure with the exact same glucose as the start, with slight variability... well that’s pretty fantastical. A reminder, for me this is possible because I have extensive experience to take information from.
It wasn’t necessarily about what I did or didn’t do but how I have learned my needs and my responses and built a trust in my ability to handle what presented on my diabetes piece. Hundreds if not thousands of experiences in wild places, each one providing new diabetes insights, most of them illuminating the importance to letting go of what I can’t control and getting really fucking good at what I can. I thought very little about my diabetes on Thursday. Each person living with diabetes fully grasps the significance of that last sentence.
If you made it this far, thank you. In our social media insta-attention world my lengthy write ups take a commitment to get to the end.
Now my challenge for you to answer in the comments below, what would a unicorn day in your Unicorn Space look like for you?
My hope for you is twofold...
1. It is easy to answer that question
2. You are deliberately creating time to spend in your Unicorn Space